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A Message From the Incoming Chair

| Jan Stirm

Jan Stirm

A Message from the Chair

Dear Alumni, Friends, and Students,

On May 26th, I officially stepped into the position of English Department Chair, taking over from Professor Erica Benson, who has been a truly outstanding chair. The transition has probably been the most difficult and challenging time of my academic career. Indeed, it’s been a difficult and challenging time for all of us. In March, we learned that we’d have a three week transition period to move all our courses to on-line/distance formats in response to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. And now in June, as I write this note, we’re working through the aftermath of the violent homicide of George Floyd in nearby Minneapolis.

I’m proud of the work the English Department community did to move to distance learning and complete the semester. Nothing was perfect, but I heard from colleagues and students alike that they were working hard, taking care of each other, and learning and teaching as well as they could under the circumstances. Our graduates were doing important work, too. In this issue, you’ll get to read about Anna Mae Tempus, a 2016 English Education graduate who teaches in Menomonie, Wisconsin, and her efforts to help people in her community during COVID-19.

Responding to systemic racism and violence towards Black bodies in the US is more difficult, but we know the work that needs to be done. As an English Department, we believe in the power of words followed by empathetic actions. This is a department of colleagues committed to anti-racist and social justice teaching and learning. As just one example, the Blugold Seminar, our award-winning first year writing program, provides instructors with continuing professional development in anti-racist teaching and assessment practices, and since everyone teaches the Blugold Seminar, all our courses benefit. It aligns, too, with our commitment to serving our wider community and reaching UW-Eau Clair’s goal of enrolling 20% students of color (which would reflect the diversity of Eau Claire’s high school graduating classes) and helping them succeed. We know that Black Lives Matter.

As we turn again towards the future, I look forward to seeing students on campus in the fall. The administration is working on the logistics of making campus as safe as possible, and the Department is working to make our classes effective while keeping ourselves and our students safe. We’re trying out new approaches to reaching students in the department, so that we maintain, with them, a sense of community that’s so important to us all.

In the meantime, I hope you’ll enjoy reading about what we’re up to, and I especially hope you’ll reach out and let us know how you’re doing.

Best wishes, Jan